Letter Regarding Investigations of Andrew Ross and Ariel Kaminer

Dear President Sexton:

We, the officers of the NYU-AAUP Chapter, are writing to express our deep distress about the revelation, as reported by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times, that a private investigator has been making inquiries about Professor Andrew Ross, who was recently banned from entering the UAE to do academic research on labor conditions there. The private investigator claimed not to know on whose behalf she was investigating not only Professor Ross but also Ariel Kaminer, who covered labor conditions in the UAE and NYU’s presence there, for the New York Times.  She did explain to one professor from whom she was soliciting information about Professor Ross that the context of her investigation was the criticism leveled at the President of NYU for the University’s involvement in the UAE.

Banning entry into the UAE and investigating those who research and write on labor conditions there are regrettably common forms of harassment of academics, journalists, and human rights researchers.  And laborers working under the kafala system are subjected to much worse, especially if they protest those conditions. These violations of labor rights and human rights in the UAE should not be overshadowed by Ross’s  banning and the subsequent private investigation.   

Yet both the banning and the investigation of Professor Ross have serious implications for the state of academic freedom at NYU.  We hope that neither you nor anyone associated with NYU has played a role in this affair.  We feel strongly that it is incumbent upon you to rectify this situation by condemning publicly both the ban and use of private investigators to impugn the reputation of faculty.  We urge you to mediate with the UAE to lift the ban on Professor Ross.  A successful collaboration with the UAE or any other foreign entity demands that all parties adhere to the basic principles of academic freedom that are a requirement for meaningful scholarship.